Deep-water longline fishing has reduced impact on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

Date: April 29, 2014

Source: Scientific Reports

The expansion of fishing activities into deeper waters1 is unquestionably one of the principal threats to the world’s ocean health2. Most deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable not only for target species but also for non-target fauna and their habitats3. Unless some radical changes in governance and management are being made4, damages to deep-sea ecosystems will soon be irreversible. The United Nations have recognized this issue and has urged governments and Regional Fishery Management Organizations to assess the impact of deep-sea fisheries on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), particularly on cold-water coral ecosystems5. To reach this goal, impact assessments of different types of deep-sea fishing gear and of specific fishery are urgently needed6.

Cold-water corals are of significant ecological7 and economical value8, providing habitat for a wide variety of organisms910, many that are of commercial interest911. They are found in all oceans, in a wide variety of settings including continental shelves, fjords, canyons, seamounts, mounds or island slopes12 and are considered as biodiversity hotspots, comparable to the diversity found in tropical coral reefs13. In contrast to tropical reefs, the cold temperatures and inconstant food supply in the deep-sea implies that most of cold-water corals have high longevity and reduced growth rates141516, long reproductive cycles and low rates of recruitment17. Such life history characteristics imply that cold-water ecosystems have a reduced capacity to recover from disturbance events, such as deep-sea bottom fishing18.

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Authors: Christopher K. Pham, Hugo Diogo, Gui Menezes, Filipe Porteiro, Andreia Braga-Henriques,Frederic Vandeperre & Telmo Morato